The woman on the elevator turns to me. “I have a very serious illness you know,” she says.
No. I didn’t know that. But soon I will, and do you know why?
Because I have the face that launches a thousand confessions.
“I wanted to name my first dog Bowser,” says the man on the bus.
“Is that right,” I say.
There is a silence.
“You want to know why I didn’t?” he says.
“Sure,” I say. “Hit me.”
“Because my mom thought it was a terrible name.”
I look at him. His mom? By all appearances, he appears to be firmly entrenched in his 60s.
“Well what’s it to her?” I ask.
“EXACTLY,” he shouts. Heads turn and he leans in to whisper angrily. “Exactly. What the bricken bracken fargle raggen was it to her?”
He didn’t really say “bricken bracken fargle raggen” of course. He was a bit more vehement than that.
But you get the picture.
I assure him that Bowser is a perfectly reasonable name for a dog, and I get off the bus two stops earlier than I need to.
It’s good for my legs.
My father has this face as well, this tell-me-your-secrets face. “Does it hurt to listen?” he says. “No. You nod, you take them seriously, you let them speak. People just want to be heard.”
And so I let them speak. Because it doesn’t cost anything to listen. Because the more people there are, the fewer voices we hear.
And because it is the way of my people.
23 minutes ago